Kai Uemura wins second-straight junior title as Nathan Roman holds off Danila Leykin at 2023 Xfinity U.S. Gymnastics Championships

By Karyssa D'Agostino | August 26, 2023
Kai Uemura swings pommel horse during Day 2 of junior men's competition at the 2023 Xfinity U.S. Gymnastics Championships.

SAN JOSE, Calif. – Kai Uemura won his second-straight U.S. junior title on Saturday inside the SAP Center, besting the junior men’s 17-year-old field by 6.68 points.

Just a couple months ago, at the junior national team camp in Japan, Uemura – who is a Japanese-American and speaks Japanese – had a short conversation with reigning Olympic and world all-around champion Hashimoto Daiki, who gave him simple, but impactful, advice that has stuck with him:

“Go for your dreams. Don’t stop.”

Uemura doesn’t plan to let up anytime soon. He won the 16-year-old U.S. title in 2022 and won the 2023 Winter Cup. He was also part of the U.S. team for junior worlds earlier this year. Next year, he will go senior and wants to immediately compete for the national team and international assignments. He also has visits planned to Illinois, Michigan, and Stanford this fall as he prepares for his NCAA career.

In his final junior competition, Uemura also won pommel horse (28.566 two-day total), rings (27.350), and parallel bars (27.532).

Uemura’s win was bolstered by the bonus system that the U.S. men implemented this quad to encourage pursuing more difficult skills. In his case, Uemura maximized the bonus system, earning 8.116 points extra over both days of competition. On Day 1 alone, he had over a point of bonus on both pommel horse and high bar. Without bonus, Uemura would’ve had a 157.400.

“I’m not doing any sets I’m not prepared for,” Uemura said after the meet. “There are definitely some things… Like that bonus system does make me want to do certain skills over others. For example, on high bar, I threw my Piatti Day 1 mostly because of the bonus system.

“It’s just the little things that are almost there – it gives you that extra push to put them in your sets. But most of the time I’m just doing the skills that I’m ready to put in a routine. So bonus is just an added bonus.”

In second was Kiran Mandava, who had a 158.836 total, and Core Hydration Classic champion Xander Hong, younger brother of Asher Hong, rounded out the podium with a 156.881.

Gage Kile took home the floor and vault titles, posting a huge 14.902 on the former on Day 2, including an opening triple back. He also earned a 15.216 for his Kas double on vault.

Nathan Roman, Danila Leykin lead 16-year-old division

As for the 16-year-old division, it was a fight between front-runners Nathan Roman and Danila Leykin, with Roman ultimately walking away with the national title after a stellar, first-place performance on parallel bars (25.358)

Roman executed a great Bhavsar in addition to a solid double back dismount. His Day 2 routine earned a huge 13.761, including 0.611 in bonus. He also won the floor title with a 27.472.

His 157.978 two-day total put him ahead of Leykin’s 156.753 despite struggles on pommel horse.

Leykin put up a fight, leading partway through the final day. He ultimately won pommel horse (25.134) and high bar (28.102).

Ty Roderiques was third with a 149.268. He also won the vault title with a two-day total of 28.860.

Justin Park rounded out the event winners with the still rings title after posting a 26.384 two-day total.

2023 Junior Level 10 National Team after U.S. championships

The following athletes were named to the junior men’s level 10 national team after the conclusion of competition at the U.S. championships.

  • Kai Uemura
  • Kiran Mandava
  • Xander Hong
  • Adam Lakomy
  • Nathan Roman
  • Danila Leykin
  • Ty Roderiques
  • Grant Bowers
  • Hasan Aydogdu
  • Sasha Bogonosiuk
  • Caden Clinton
  • Justin Park
  • Oleksandr Shybitov
  • Preston Ngai

See our breakdown of the selection procedures here.

For a full play-by-play of both days, check out our live blog.